Yesterday, the MLB and players’ association agreed to implement several new rules that eliminate egregious collisions against the catcher effective during this season. This initiative comes after many severe injuries occurring from collisions including Buster Posey suffering a broken ankle from a collision that can be seen above. The rule still allows from contact but the runner must not deviate from his path to the plate nor may he use his hand or lower his shoulder into the catcher. Additionally, the catcher may not block the plate unless he has the baseball in his glove, or else the runner will be called safe. Overall, I think this is a great rule to initiate as player safety should always be the first concern for the MLB.
Catcher collisions have always been a part of professional baseball as it adds an extra sense of flair to the game that is not typically found on the diamond. However, having played baseball for 16 years of my life without collisions, I can safely say that it is an unnecessary component of the game. In no way is it vital to careen into the catcher in order to score a run. In fact, if a baserunner has to resort to that, they most likely should be out in the first place if they cannot slide in safely. Also, as a former catcher, I can say that there is still plenty of contact when a runner slides in feet first going full speed into one’s shin pad. Without this new legislation, it is highly probable that many catchers would have continued to be seriously injured from these collisions.
It is refreshing to see this kind of reform in professional sports with the concern for player safety. While it is not a direct comparison, similar efforts have been going on in the NFL and they have successfully driven down the number of head injuries for many seasons in a row. This in turn alleviates the detrimental effects that occur after a player’s career has ended. Sadly, many former NFL players suffer from serious depression and trauma, including suicidal thoughts. While the magnitude and frequency are not as high in baseball, these collisions still could have caused similar effects. Therefore, Bud Selig is doing his job to the fullest extent as commissioner by promoting these types of revisions in professional baseball.
Personally, I would like to think that it takes much more athleticism and creativity to effectively slide around a catcher’s tag, as opposed to hurling one’s body into the other player. Here is an impressive example of such a maneuver in a high school game.
Here is yet another example in the context of an MLB game. Mind you that the baserunner is Greg Maddux, a starting pitcher who could possibly be the least likely person to pull off such an acrobatic move at home plate.
In conclusion, other professional sports leagues should be taking the same steps as the MLB and NFL have been doing in order to promote and sustain player safety in the context of their respective sports. While it may be entertaining for some to see dangerous collisions in baseball, it is diametrically opposed to what is conducive for the players’ wellbeing. By banning collisions at home plate, players will not only be safer, but the game will also stay closer to its roots with the necessity to perform acrobatic slides into home to score runs.